The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special TV Review

Last Updated on November 28, 2022

Plot: On a mission to make Christmas unforgettable for Quill, the Guardians head to Earth in search of the perfect present.

Review: After the success of Marvel Studios’ Werewolf by Night, their second standalone special presentation arrives in a Christmas-themed special featuring the established characters from James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy series. Serving as a bridge between their last appearances in Avengers: Endgame and Thor: Love & Thunder and next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, this Holiday Special represents a Yuletide-themed outing for a space-set big screen saga and will easily draw comparisons with the much-maligned holiday special featuring the characters in the Star Wars franchise. Luckily, James Gunn shows Lucasfilm how it’s done and still manages to incorporate celebrity cameos, musical numbers, and holiday cheer while still maintaining the integrity of his movies for a special that will make audiences smile and laugh in equal measure.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special,Chris Pratt,James Gunn,Marvel Studios,Guardians of the Galaxy

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special opens with a short animated story about a terrible Christmas from Peter Quill’s childhood featuring the return of Michael Rooker as Yondu. The episode then transitions to an opening musical number at Knowhere, a key setting from the first Guardians movie, featuring The Old 97s delivering one of the weirdest Christmas songs ever and one that will surely get some rotation every December for years to come. We see an older Groot, Rocket hanging out with talking dog Cosmo, as well as Nebula and Kraglin. The special then settles down with the story teased in the trailer: knowing he is sad without Gamora, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista) decide to take it upon themselves to give Peter the best Christmas ever by bringing him Kevin Bacon.

The special spends the bulk of its time with Mantis and Drax on Earth, in Hollywood, as they interact with people on the streets and in bars before they find Kevin Bacon. Bacon, himself a veteran of Marvel having appeared in X-Men: First Class, is very game to play along with the story as a fictionalized version of himself. Bacon, along with a voice cameo from his wife Kyra Sedgewick, is hilarious opposite Drax and Mantis. Kudos should also go to Bautista and Klementieff who have developed a lot of chemistry during their time working together. Mantis is much stronger of a character here than she has been before and Klementieff really has come into her own as part of these films. Bautista, always a scene-stealer in these movies, has a lot of fun with Earth traditions and learning that Kevin Bacon is an actor. The entire sequences with Bacon are a highlight here and had me laughing non-stop.

Clocking in at just about forty-five minutes, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special packs a lot of material into a short run time but also feels like it tells a complete story. While the screen time for Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, and Sean Gunn is limited, their presence never feels cursory. The journey of this episode definitely is limited in scope compared to the movies but it also doesn’t feel arbitrary or contractually obligated and that is thanks to the investment of everyone involved to make this special feel like a mini-movie rather than a cash grab. The production values are consistent with the big screen MCU offerings despite the stakes not being nearly on par with fighting supervillains or apocalyptic events. This is a Christmas story that embraces the meaning of the season without losing the smart-ass style that made the Guardians fan-favorite superheroes.

There are a solid number of easter eggs and references to other Marvel Studios films and characters, some hidden in the background and others overt to the story. James Gunn also includes a nice little DC Comics reference, something that has an added level knowing that the filmmaker is taking over leadership at Marvel’s primary competition after he completes his work on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. It is a friendly joke and informs Gunn’s belief that there is no reason fans shouldn’t be able to enjoy both comic book universes. It is also very telling how wholesome this special is while still managing to maintain a feeling of rebellion that has set the feature film series apart from the rest of the MCU. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special has mild profanity and is not aimed at the younger viewers who may be excited about this new Disney+ special but there is nothing inappropriate here that should prevent it from being appreciated by all.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special,Chris Pratt,James Gunn,Marvel Studios,Guardians of the Galaxy

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is more than just a trifle that manages to be an absolutely fantastic holiday treat. Full of good cheer, solid laughs, and a handful of significant MCU reveals. It may not up the ante on anything Marvel Studios has done to date, but its blend of animation, music, jokes, and sentiment makes this one of the best Christmas specials in a very long time. I finished the special and immediately watched it a second time, both rounds with a big smile on my face. Two important takeaways for anyone watching this special are to keep an eye out on the career of Kevin Bacon as that guy is going to be a big star and stick around for the post-credit sequence.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special premieres on November 25th on Disney+.


About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.